Shirley Heinze Land Trust acquires 16-acre woodland near Rolling Prairie

The now-protected Rolling Prairie woodland area in spring bloom. (Photo provided)

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In an era when government protection of nature and wildlife is sketchy at best, the onus falls on local groups and individuals to pick up the baton. The regional Shirley Heinze Land Trust is leading that example in announcing that it has acquired a 16-acre wooded property in Wills Township, LaPorte County, southeast of Rolling Prairie. The woodland is home to an extremely diverse variety of plant species, including 41 plants whose presence is indicative of high-quality, relatively undisturbed habitats. It also features a rich population of spring wildflowers. Local botanists have long been aware of the woods and its surroundings and have been advocating for its protection for some time.

“This property is part of a large, rich forest that covers many more acres. Springtime displays of many kinds of wildflowers are breathtaking, and in summer the diversity of ferns, grasses and sedges is superb. There is also a very nice array of wildlife here,” botanist Keith Board said in a Heinze press release. Board, along with board member Barbara Plampin, began exploring the area many years ago. Board member Myrna Newgent said, “The property has the most wonderful display of spring ephemerals anywhere in northwest Indiana.”

“Shirley Heinze Land Trust is proud to protect this biodiverse gem in the vicinity of Rolling Prairie and eastern LaPorte County, where we historically haven’t had a project area, and we look forward to maintaining the site for generations to come,” Heinze Executive Director Kristopher Krouse said.

There are currently no trails on the property. Visitation is by guided hike only until public access can be created.

Conservation of the property is being aided by the Greentown Reynolds Transmission Line in partnership with Shirley Heinze Land Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. NIPSCO is also a funding partner.

Shirley Heinze Land Trust has been protecting and preserving natural land in northwest Indiana since 1981. The organization accomplishes its work through a partnership of volunteers, donors and professionals. More than 2,400 acres in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties have been preserved for the public’s benefit. Shirley Heinze nature preserves areas of significant scenic and ecological value, and most are open to the public for hiking and enjoying nature. The organization protects, restores and maintains examples of the entire spectrum of northwest Indiana’s rich and significant natural communities, including tallgrass prairie, high dune, oak savanna, boreal flatwoods, dune-and-swale, woodlands, marshes, swamps, ponds, fens, bogs, and riparian habitat. Five of its properties – Cressmoor Prairie, Seidner Dune & Swale, John Merle Coulter Preserve, Barker Woods, and Ambler Flatwoods – have been dedicated to the people of Indiana as state nature preserves.

For more information on the work and nature preserves of Shirley Heinze Land Trust, visit www.heinzetrust.org, call (219) 242-8558, and visit www.facebook.com/heinzetrust.

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